You have to be impressed with the sheer audacity of Nevada AD Cary Groth. After all, it takes a lot of cajones to defend the moral standing of your athletes after a story breaks involving a basketball player going to the school’s rec center with a gun looking for a member of the football team. But as the NEVADA APPEAL says, Groth (below, third from right) and basketball coach David Carter did just that, calling a press conference to rip the media for their coverage of Ahyaro Phillips’ dismissal from the team.
It’s a fair point: Why would the media want to cover something as frivolous as a basketball player using a gun to try to intimidate a member of the football team on campus a few days after they got into a brawl at a party? After all, in Groth’s world, Nevada doesn’t recruit any player in any sport that isn’t a fine, upstanding student:
“These are good kids,” said Groth, glancing over at the Wolf Pack men’s basketball players assembled in the Hall of Fame room of Legacy Hall on the Nevada campus. “Every one of the kids in our program are good kids. We have over 450 student athletes and with 450 student athletes we are going to have issues from time to time. And when we do we will handle it swiftly and professionally. And that’s what we’ve done.”
Good kids … like the ones who get into brawls at parties, and then try to fix the problem by bringing a gun on campus. Or like Phillips’ teammate Armon Johnson (clearly the spawn of UNLV teammates Armen Gilliam and Larry Johnson), who the RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL says was linked to the gun that Phillips had. It wasn’t his, mind you, and he didn’t give the gun to Phillips: Johnson was just holding it for a friend, and Phillips must have taken it from his place. Right.
But this story isn’t about the assorted screw-ups who represent Nevada as student-athletes. No, Groth wants you to know this is about accountability, especially yours, Mr. Responsible Member of the Media:
“We’re here to talk about accountability,” Groth said, opening the press conference. “We are going to be accountable for what we do and for who we bring to this program. But we also want you (the media) to be accountable, too.”
And what did the media do that was so shameful? For one thing, they attempted to contact players to find out more about what happened, instead of taking the school’s official story at face value. Also, they had the nerve to report that Coach Carter (no, not this one) was unavailable for comment, when he was in fact…recruiting in Australia and unavailable for comment.
But remember: all 450 Wolfpack athletes are good kids. Even if the school has had so many problems with weapons recently that they are considering having to ban all athletes from possessing handguns. (Which would probably make them the only 450 people in Nevada not packing heat.)
It was nice to see the basketball team (minus the dismissed Phillips, who clearly was the one rotten apple) standing behind Groth as she lectured the press on how to do their jobs; but it was too bad that they clearly had leave the press conference early to run out and study for midterms, mentor undreprivledged youths and heal the sick before the media had a chance to ask them any questions. I’m sure Groth would have loved that.
Let’s face it: blogs often rip on the mainstream media when they do a weak job of reporting a story because it’s complicated or might offend someone they admire or need (hello ESPN and Rick Pitino!). But the northern Nevada media have actually done a good job of buckling down and getting all the important details about this and other cases without being salacious or jumping to conclusions (that’s my job).
Groth’s attempt to pass the buck and make this a story about overzealous media members is pretty pathetic, and I’m pretty sure it will backfire like a 1948 DeSoto.