Five years ago, David Stern rocked the NBA established by instituting a new dress code on NBA benches. No longer would players be allowed to dress like teenage kids in track jackets and baseball caps. In the wake of the Palace Brawl, the league had an image to improve, and Stern was going to do something about in the most superficial way possible.
In focusing on the players, though, the commissioner neglected a hidden sartorial evil lurking on the sidelines: coaches in mock turtlenecks. As noted in this AP piece on Stan Van Gundy’s approach to coaching the Magic this season (via Skeets), the league has now disallowed the more sensible alternative to a turtleneck for coaches:
And those trademark turtleneck shirts complete with the same few sport coats on the sideline are gone. New NBA rules require coaches to wear collared shirts during games.
“I want them to at least name the rule after me,” Van Gundy said. “Somebody has their Bird rights. Larry Bird got that rule named after him. I want it to be the Van Gundy Rule.”
Van Gundy is a bit mistaken. As you can clearly see from the photo above, the new rule should be called the Don Nelson Gut Visibility Ban of 2010. It’s now obvious why Nellie quit the Warriors. The breakup wasn’t about money or the new ownership’s unhappiness with his coaching style; it was simply an issue of Nelson not being able to roam the sidelines with his neck at maximum comfort level. Under these grueling conditions, it’s no wonder he decided to go back to Maui, where there are no draconian restrictions on an adult’s wardrobe. If Nelson wants to where half-shirts on the beach, then by golly he’s going to do it.
In all honesty, I have no idea why Stern would create this new rule. The t-shirt-and-blazer combo has become a legitimate option for young urban professionals and older businessmen alike, to the point where only the most conservative men in American commerce demand suits from their employees at all times (or so I’ve heard from people who make more money than I do). If Van Gundy has looked unprofessional as a coach, it’s because of his constant yelling and wild gesticulating, not his clothes. But don’t tell that to Stern, who has been photographed without a tie approximately once in his life.
He’s just asking for a problem here. What if a player on the Magic — most likely Ryan Anderson — can’t play in a game and shows up with a mock turtleneck. Will SVG get jealous and never play him again? That’s a player-coach argument you don’t want to have happen in view of cameras.
Surely the coaches and league can reach a compromise. Otherwise, I think everyone should wear bolo ties on the sidelines as a show of solidarity. A man’s clothes are his own form of expression, and that outlet should never be shut down.