I don't know much, but I know this: Coach McClanahan would not have approved of tanking.
Coach McClanahan was my junior high P.E. coach and he was a darn good one, but he scared me. With the possible exception of the kid whose rapid maturation gave him 5 o'clock shadow and a baseball-sized Adam's apple in the 8th grade, we were all scared of coach McClanahan.
How scared? Well, only seconds ago I planned to refer to him as "Coach M" in the above sentence. But I couldn't bring myself to it. See, nobody ever called him anything - to his face, at least - other than "Coach" or "Coach McClanahan" or "sir." It been at least 35 years since I walked the halls of junior high and I'm almost positive Coach is no longer with us. But I don't know it for sure and, well, I'm not about to get careless. Just to be safe there will be no cutesy "Coach M" references today ... or ever. Shoot, as I type these words I'm pretty sure the word "Coach" in this instance isn't supposed to be capitalized. But I don't care. He's getting a capital C from me.
He's Coach McClanahan, got it?
Anyway, as I was saying ...
The concept of tanking - of willfully losing games now in hopes somehow becoming better in the future - would have been laughable to Coach McClanahan. "If you're not trying to win, why even lace 'em up," he might rightfully have asked.
"Shoot, son, if you're not here to compete, grab a dadgum apron and head down to the dadgum Home Ec room," he might've said. "I hear they're bakin' cream puffs today."
Thankfully, professional sports teams didn't tank back then. And if they did, they certainly weren't as proud of it as they are today.
Today, the idea of tanking in the NBA is not only accepted, it's fashionable.
This season, with a strong crop of college stars waiting in the wings, NBA execs are so lovestruck they're practically doodling the names Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid with little hearts and curlicues on their homework folders.
Those players, and a few others too, are considered prized personnel in this year's draft. But even though the talent is supposed to be deep, there's still only so much to go around and teams who aren't really good would just as soon be really bad so they can - oh cross your fingers - get one of the top few picks.
In order to increase their chances, many have resorted to putting inferior products on the court each night, all in an effort ensure they don't - let's see, what's the best way to put this? - win.
The NBA isn't thrilled about the concept of tanking. In fact, years ago former commissioner David Stern was so bothered by it he instituted a lottery system whereby the team with the worst record doesn't necessarily get the first pick.
As most fans around here know, the Jazz are in position to get themselves one of those prized prospects this year. When they started out the season with a stomach-churning 1-14 record, fans took some solace (delight?) in the fact their team was the worst in the NBA and thereby had a great shot at the No. 1 overall pick.
Since then, however, they've pretty much played .500 ball and now several of their opponents have gotten better at getting worse.
I've written about this stuff far too often this season and, sadly, I'll probably have to write even more as the season wears on. I've quoted Jazz players and coaches who've said they aren't tanking, and I believe them. I honestly don't see why professional athletes would purposely try to lose so their team could, in theory, draft someone to take their place. And I don't see how a head coach would agree to dropping games on purpose, especially knowing how easily they can get fired.
But what about team executives? For them it's a much thornier issue. They ultimately can and do benefit from tanking, which is why tanking exists. They know how the game is played and how to take advantage of the flaws in the system.
Here in Utah, the Jazz are either doing a mediocre job of being lousy or they're committed to making a worthy effort every night, even when losing more often would be more beneficial. I tend to think it's more of the latter.
I admire the sentiment, I really do. And I know Coach McClanahan would too, however, at the risk having to do push-ups, followed by a rope climb, followed by running laps around the gym, I must disagree.
I held out for 50-plus games believing it's more important to develop a winning attitude over trying to land a top three draft pick. But as much as I hate the idea of tanking, I think Utah's executives need to start playing that game. After all, their rivals are playing it and, dadgummit, this is no time to let them win ... er, I mean lose.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo