An Honest
Day’s Word

By Joe Edwards

Wednesday, December 3, 1997

Williams has class;
Sprewell is a bad act

THIS and that to chew on over lunch:

Some say athletics builds character, but actually it reveals it.

For proof, look no further than this week's news from Oakland and Phoenix.

In Phoenix, Matt Williams took a $2.5 million pay cut for the opportunity to play for the Arizona Diamondbacks and to live near his children, who live with their mother in Paradise Valley.

Over in California, Latrell Sprewell took an involuntary $940,000 pay cut because he doesn't like his coach, P.J. Carlesimo, whom he choked, punched and reportedly threatened to kill on Monday.

Clearly, Williams is a class act. Take, for example, this particular story. In 1988, a young, eager college student named Steve Gilbert was covering the Phoenix Firebirds for the Mesa Tribune. Williams was the latest, greatest prodigy in the San Francisco Giants organization, destined for the big time.

Williams couldn't have been more professional or nicer to a kid reporter whom he could have just as easily ignored. But instead of being a big shot, he befriended Gilbert, took him out for dinner with some of the other players and basically treated him with respect and dignity.

"Any time a person of that stature in the locker room treats you well, whether it be taking you out to dinner or giving you his time, that helps you make certain inroads," said Gilbert, who up until a month ago was a media relations man with the Milwaukee Brewers. He now is the on-line editor for the Diamondbacks, the Phoenix Suns and Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers.

"He's such a genuine person," Gilbert continued. "That's what strikes you about him. He made a decision to come home to be close to his kids.

"It's a nice statement about a person when he's willing to pay two-and-a-half million to come home. How many pro athletes these days are willing to take a cut like that? Matt, to me, has always been a class individual."

Not to mention a big-time player. The Diamondbacks might be an expansion team, but they are fast putting together a solid core of players. Gilbert said there has been a concerted effort by owner Jerry Colangelo and manager Buck Showalter to go after guys who are solid citizens as well as great baseball players.

With Williams at third, Jay Bell at short, Travis Lee at first and Devon White in the outfield, the future is bright indeed in the Valley of the Sun.

At the other end of the spectrum is the mercurial Sprewell. Here's a man who has millions of dollars worth of basketball talent, but doesn't have a nickel's worth of common sense or decency.

Make no mistake, Sprewell can play, as his 21.4-points-per-game average will attest. But he apparently also believes he is the center of the galaxy, and has been a major pain in the butt for the Warriors ever since he got his chance to shine a few years back.

Monday's tantrum would be the end of the line for most employees. It certainly was for Robert Kekaula at KHNL. I have no doubt that if I tried to choke our managing editor, Dave Shapiro, I'd be looking for work today instead of performing it.

Here's hoping the Warriors keep taking the incident seriously. The patients have taken over the NBA's asylum and it's time to stop the silliness.

Sprewell was suspended for 10 games yesterday. That's a good start. Better would be if the team exercised its right to terminate the remainder of Sprewell's four-year, $32 million contract. Section 16 of the Uniform Player Contract says players must "conform to standards of good citizenship and good moral character."

Choking your coach and threatening to kill him would be a violation, don'tcha think?

Joe Edwards is sports editor of the Star-Bulletin.

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