Originally created 07/06/97

Mike Berardino: English says players handled problem well



Cleaning out the notebook before this thing gets too heavy to carry around:

Alex English talked about more than movies before the G.A.M.E.S. banquet the other night. He reflected on the fact that the first part of his pro career was spent sharing the court with drug-addled teammates and opponents.

At least that's the perception of the pre-salary cap NBA of the late '70s and early '80s.

Does this perception bother him?

"It doesn't bother me at all," said English, the former South Carolina Gamecocks great who will enter the Basketball Hall of Fame in September. "I think the NBA only mirrored society. The drug problem was no worse (in the NBA) than it was on Wall Street or in the school system. Unfortunately it's just a negative thing this country has.

"The positive thing about the NBA was that we were able to tackle that problem at that time. And that the players instituted a drug program themselves. It didn't take the commissioner coming down. The players themselves decided, well, we've got to clean our act up and we've got to police ourselves and we're going to put these stringent rules in. `If you can't do it, then you've got to go.' I think we were on the cutting edge when we did that."

Thanks to the NBA's three-strike policy, weaker sorts like Micheal Ray Richardson and Roy Tarpley were quickly drubbed out of the league. Contrast that setup with baseball, where seven-time drug loser Steve Howe is pitching in the independent Northern League and will likely get yet another chance.

English, who was a key member of the players association when it formulated its drug policy, takes pride in basketball's success story. He also thinks he knows what might have happened had the players not policed themselves.

"There probably would have been a lot more players falling by the wayside," he said. "I did see guys just throw their lives away. Fortunately, we were able to cut our losses and move forward positively. We were all pushing for the new policy. We knew we had to save some lives and to save our livelihoods."

  • By the way, English lasted until the second round of the 1976 NBA draft, when the Milwaukee Bucks finally took him with the 23rd overall pick. Among those drafted ahead of English: Bayard Forrest, Sonny Parker, Norman Cook, Chuckie Williams, Armond Hill, Wally Walker and Larry Wright.
  • Sorry, Boris Becker, but we don't believe this was really your last Wimbledon. After all, you're only 29, so how could you be washed up? Plus, Wimbledon's bumpy grass courts give you the best chance to add to your major championship total. You'll be back.
  • English's No. 22 is one of four numbers retired by the basketball program at South Carolina. Can you name the others? (Answer below.)
  • Yes, a lifetime ban is what Mike Tyson deserves. But if they didn't kick him out of the sport for raping a woman, what makes you think they'll do it for biting Evander Holyfield's ears? Boxing is barbaric. Tyson is barbaric. They're pretty much stuck with each other.
  • We lost Robert Mitchum, Jimmy Stewart and Charles Kuralt, all in the span of five days. That's a tough week.
  • Why do the Mariners keep letting Randy Johnson throw 140-plus pitches? Don't they realize they're risking the most feared lefty in the game? If the Big Unit's healthy come October, the Mariners just might win it all. Without the Big Unit, they sit home and watch the World Series.
  • Kudos to Todd Greene for standing in there and ripping a first-pitch single off Johnson on Friday night. Something tells us this time the former Evans/Georgia Southern star is up with the Angels to stay.
  • Trivia answer: Besides English, the other ex-Gamecocks to have their numbers retired are Grady Wallace (No. 42), John Roche (No. 11) and Kevin Joyce (No. 43).
  • And on that note ...