Under a new mandate designed to bring viewers closer to the action, the NBA has ordered coaches of games aired on ABC, ESPN and TNT to wear a microphone on the sidelines during game play and in-game interviews during TV timeouts. While players can decline to wear a microphone, coaches can’t.
Under the new guidelines and in addition to the wireless mics, a camera will be mounted in locker rooms to observe the pre-game, halftime and post-game periods that used to be private. Before the rule change, announced by the NBA earlier this month, all media access ended 45 minutes before game time and did not resume until 10 minutes after a game.
While reports say the league has assured coaches that they will carefully edit content, including profanity or information on game strategy, some coaches are no so certain.
Detroit Pistons coach Flip Saunders told his hometown “Free Press” newspaper that he worries that even though clips are edited for broadcast, they might end up on YouTube. “Everything in the locker room, when you go in there and talk, is strategy,” Saunders told the newspaper. “Unless they’re going to watch guys put their socks on.”
Rules for other leagues are more liberal, Saunders said. In baseball, he noted, managers have the option of wearing a microphone, and in the NFL, each coach must only do so once a season. “We'll have to wait and see how it goes,” he said. “We talked about it as coaches, and if you don’t monitor it, it could be a really embarrassing situation. They assured us that it wouldn’t be, so we’ll see.”
Phil Jackson, coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, compared the league to Big Brother in an interview with the “Los Angeles Daily News.” “We do things in private. It’s an inner sanctum,” Jackson said. “For people to be in the inner sanctum, where emotions are high … it’s very Big Brother. It’s very intimidating.”
Miami Heat coach Pat Riley also opposes the move. “My position is I just think it’s an invasion,” he told Miami sports writers. “It’s good for television, but it’s an invasion of my privacy and our privacy when it comes to saying whatever it is you want to say… I think coaches are going to be very inhibited, as much as people assure us that they’ll only put out there what is good. I won’t be able to deal with it very well, so I'll be mute.”