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Thursday, April 10, 2008
Hansbrough in black and white

Along with Memphis' poor foul shooting and Stephen Curry's coming-out party, one of the major themes of this year's NCAA Tournament was the media coverage of North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough.

With Dick Vitale, who actually said Hansbrough has displayed more "desire'' than any college player he's ever seen, and others praising him so lavishly, some wondered aloud if Psycho-T was being over-hyped because he's white. Others chastised those who wondered aloud for playing the race card.

Well, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy had an interesting take on the matter when he appeared on "The Boog Sciambi Show'' on 790 AM radio in Miami last Friday.

Making some refreshingly honest comments about race, Van Gundy said the fawning over Hansbrough had indeed gone to ridiculous extremes because he's white.

Here's the uncut dialogue:

Sciambi: "Would they (the media) use the same adjectives to describe him (Hansbrough) if he were black?''

SVG: "Well, probably not. But I think there's two things going on there. Well three. Let's give the guy his due. He plays the game well and he plays it hard okay. With no hyperbole he does do that, so let's start there.

"But then the second and third factors I think definitely you hit on it, there's the racial thing. People go crazy over white players. They tend to assign character qualities to them rather than just good play. And then the third thing is the emotion. He plays with a lot of emotion. You know, he's jumping up and down, he's all over the place and for whatever reason when fans see that they think that equates to a greater desire to win than a guy, let's say, that plays like Tim Duncan played even in college. Who just sort of pretty even keeled, doesn't show a lot of emotion but just keeps playing well and getting the job done.

"For whatever reason fans, media, whoever, equate the show of emotion with a greater desire to win and I think its B.S. But I think it happens so I think there's that on top of the racial issue."

Sciambi: "Don't numbers two and three tie together because aren't, in a lot of instances, isn't the white public or media offended at times by the show of emotion when it's a black guy? If its Chad Johnson dancing to show emotion, 'Hey wait a second, we don't like that so much.'''

SVG: "That's a great point. I mean I do think that happens a lot. 'The black guy has no class, but the white guy's playing with fire.' I don't think there's any question about that."

Who knew Stan Van Gundy had read "The Autobiography of Malcolm X"?

But seriously, I thought Van Gundy's comments were very insightful, and I agree with them completely.

Hey, I have absolutely no problem with white fans wanting to see white players succeed in basketball. And I don't have a problem with them pulling for a player just because he's white. After all, I pull for Tiger just because he's black, or should I say Cablanasian.

What I have a problem with is the difference in the way folks interpret the actions of white and black players. Like Van Gundy said, "the black guy has no class, but the white guy's playing with fire.'' I also loved Van Gundy's line about people assigning "character qualities'' (always positive) to white players.

How many times has a black player been criticized for showing emotion: beating his chest, raising his arms to the rafters, or screaming, after a dunk; or doing a little dance or a wiggle after making a play?

That's just emotion, but too often, it's criticized as "showboating'' or "bad sportsmanship.''

Yet when Hansbrough shows emotion, its "desire.''

Here's the other point about Hansbrough:

How will he do in the NBA?

I always wonder about undersized post players. I think, "Will he be the next Larry Johnson or the next Tractor Traylor?''

Remember how dominant Corliss Williamson was in college? Michael Sweetney? Byron Houston? Marcus Fizer?

If an undersized post player doesn't have tremendous explosion and long arms, he could have trouble in the NBA. And Hansbrough doesn't have either.

I'd love to have him on my NBA team -- but as a role player off the pine.

After all, he does play with great heart and desire. Just like a lot of black players.