Court Vision: Unexpected Views on the Lure of Basketball

Court Vision: Unexpected Views on the Lure of Basketball

Court Vision: Unexpected Views on the Lure of Basketball

Court Vision: Unexpected Views on the Lure of Basketball


Best-selling New York Times writer Ira Berkow presents a unique look at America's premier sport-and its fans-through interviews with a remarkable cross section of widely known and extraordinarily accomplished individuals in a variety of fields, who explain what the lure of basketball is for them. Berkow talked with Chris Rock, Woody Allen, Tom Brokaw, Saul Bellow, Johnnie Cochran Jr., Walter Matthau, Nikki Giovanni, Donald Trump, Julia Child, Frank Stella, Erica Jong, Grover Washington Jr., Seiji Ozawa, and Sharon Stone, among others, to uncover fresh, funny, controversial, and often surprising opinions about the teams and players who make the game intriguing.


One afternoon several years ago I lunched with Red Holzman, the retired Hall of Fame coach who had led the New York Knicks to the only National Basketball Association championships they’ve ever won, in 1970 and 1973. There had been a morning news conference about something or other in Madison Square Garden, and Holzman attended in his capacity then as a consultant to the Knicks, or a kind of éminence grise—a lofty phrase, by the way, to which I’m sure he would have objected.

Holzman was then about seventy-five years old, typically natty in a dark blue suit and red tie, his red hair turned gray, his eyes, as always, radiating intelligence and wit. I had known and covered Holzman since he first became coach of the Knicks in 1967, my first year as a sportswriter in New York; and in the last decade or so of his life, I had become friends with him and his wife, Selma. I knew Holzman loved the comedian Jackie Mason and had seen his one-man smash hit on Broadway, The World according to Me. It happened that I knew Mason and was having lunch with him that afternoon, and I asked Holzman if he’d like to join us. I didn’t have to ask twice.

I was certain that Mason wouldn’t mind—better, I thought he would delight in Holzman, even though Mason was interested in few sports other than boxing, in which he held himself out as an expert. I was fairly certain that Mason did not know who Red Holzman was. So Holzman and I walk into the restaurant; Mason, in his sport jacket buttoned tight around his belly, was waiting for us.

I introduced Holzman to him. “Jackie,” I said, “I’d like you to meet Red Holzman. He was the brilliant coach of the Knicks.”

Mason gave Holzman the once-over. “Doesn’t look so smart to me,” he said.

Holzman broke out laughing.

“What degree of difficulty is there for a coach to make the difference between a team winning or losing?” Mason asked as we sat down . . .

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