Back when Rondo was charged with that frustration flagrant foul on Dwyane Wade, I mentioned that it reminded me of the Dave Cowens foul on the Rockets' Mike Newlin back in 1976. Grampa Celtic had a piece in Sunday's Globe recalling that very play and relating how it could be used to deal with the flopping problem in the NBA. Here is Bob Ryan's description of the play:
For those of you who weren’t avid followers of the NBA on Feb. 25, 1976, here is a brief summary.
It was the third quarter. Enraged because Houston guard Mike Newlin, a sturdy 6-foot-4-inch guard, had just pulled off a second successful “phony flop” on him, Cowens decided to enact some vigilante justice.
Newlin was running down the right side of the court on the ensuing Rockets possession. Cowens ran diagonally, catching up to Newlin as the latter reached a spot in front of the Boston bench. Cowens delivered what could best be described as a double forearm shiver, knocking Newlin to the floor. He then ran over to referee Bill Jones and screamed, “Now that’s a foul!”
There were any number of interesting postscripts emanating from Cowens’s act of violence, but expulsion from the game was not one of them. Today, of course, it would be as “flagrant” a foul as one could possibly imagine. Cowens would be ejected and, undoubtedly, suspended. Newlin’s lawyer might also seek criminal prosecution.
But times were different in 1976. In fact, the only person who wound up being ejected was Celtics coach Tom Heinsohn.
The immediate ramification was that the Celtics, who were then trailing in the game by 11, got the benefit of just about every call and non-call from then on. Boston wound up winning, 103-102. A second piece of fallout was Newlin’s need to wear a Thomas collar for several days.
I just love that story and Grampa Celtic tells it so much better than I did. Dave Cowens was a true original.
Now, the whole purpose of Mr Ryan's story is that a better way to deal with flopping than the fine structure that the NBA has set up would be, in the words of Dave Cowens, to show them "the replay of the Newlin thing." Cowens hated flopping and wrote a letter to the Globe explaining why he disliked it and why it needed to be stopped. Here is part of his letter as told by Bob Ryan in his article:
He went on to say that in his view phony flopping “makes players think they can achieve their goal without putting in the work or effort that it takes to develop any skill or talent,” and “arouses the ignorant fans who react vehemently to violent gestures.”
Cowens also warned that “if this practice continues unrestrained or the actor is allowed to utilize this fraudulent exercise successfully, it will gradually become an accepted strategy and will be taught to kids more enthusiastically by their coaches.”
Well, I think we are there. Players have made flopping into an art form. It has yet to be seen whether or not David Stern's idea of assessing fines after the foul is reviewed by the league office will work. I kind of like Bob Ryan's suggestion better.
Better still, allow Cowens to suit up and spend a night with each team in the league. He may be 64, but he’s still in pretty good shape. A couple of “Now that’s a fouls!” and Stu Jackson can tend to other matters.
But then, I always did love old school basketball. If you haven't read Bob Ryan's story, you should. It's a good one.