Alan Dell

COMMENTARY: Bad decisions haunt these sports figures

By ALAN DELLadell@bradenton.comThe LeBron James “Decision” has turned into one of the worst mistakes in our modern sports era.

But the world of athletics is full of people who have made off-the-field blunders, including those who reside in Manatee County and the surrounding area.

Unfortunately, those who made the errors in judgment often suffer the most.

15 Bad Sports Decisions

n Peter Warrick and Dillard’s: The former Southeast/Florida State great was the heavy favorite to win the Heisman Trophy in 1999 when he got involved in a Dillard’s incident in which he received $400 worth of clothing at a discount rate even Goodwill couldn’t match. He sent out a public letter of apology and did all the right things afterward, but it cost him the Heisman and a chance to live in football immortality; it has haunted him ever since and is a steep price to pay for a lapse of poor judgment.

n Adrian McPherson at Florida State: The only person to win Florida’s Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball awards, he could likely be some NFL team’s quarterback if he didn’t get booted out of FSU amid allegations of theft and forgery. To his credit, he has been trouble-free since and is trying to rebuild his life. Let’s not forget he was just 17 when he graduated Southeast an iconic figure, which is tough for any kid to handle.

n Lakewood Ranch hockey arena: It seems like yesterday when balloons flew through the air and professional hockey players made their way into town. There was going to be pro hockey and Arena Football, and the world as we knew it here would be a better place. The only thing left from that dream is a piece of rubble -- if you can find it.

n Brac Brady hiring: This is not an indictment of Brady, who has built a solid career as head coach at University of Maine-Machias and is a person of integrity. But he was 25 years old when hired as Manatee Community College’s head basketball coach in 1999 and frankly wasn’t ready. He had an 0-31 season and was 28-89 his first four years before leaving with a 61-116 record. To his credit, he improved, but MCC (now SCF) should not be used as a training ground for head coaches.

n FHSAA on gender issue: This body that represents high school sports in Florida has a vault of blunders but it out-did itself in 2009 by trying to cut games and forgot about gender discrimination and Title IX. A lawsuit served as a reminder, and the FHSAA reversed its stance. Worst yet, the FHSAA reportedly agreed to pay $41,000 in legal costs to settle the lawsuit with a parent group.

n Henry Lawrence snub: In talking about sports blunders, we can’t ignore the benching of Lawrence in 1969, his only year of high school football at Manatee High. It’s safe to say it’s the biggest coaching blunder in Manatee County sports history. He was good enough to play 13 years in the NFL, win three Super Bowls and be a first round pick. If LeBron James is the king without a ring, what do we call Mr. Lawrence?

n Jim Leavitt’s infamous slap: When the former University of South Florida football coach “allegedly” slapped Joel Miller in the face during halftime of a game against Louisville, life as he knew it ended. The man who built the Bulls program from the ground up and wanted to be there all his life was subsequently fired. Think he wouldn’t want to have that moment back?

n Eliminating freshman basketball: Public high school basketball in Manatee County has struggled, and it didn’t help when freshman basketball was abandoned in the mid-2000s. Though the 1995 Southeast squad is the only boys basketball team from Manatee County to win a state title, three players from that school have been named Mr. Basketball (Clifford Rozier, LeRon Williams and McPherson). So there is talent if given a chance to grow.

n Tim Donaghy’s gambling: The former disgraced NBA referee made his home here before going to prison on charges that included wire fraud stemming from an FBI investigation that he gambled while officiating games and passed on information about players to gamblers. His decision to gamble ruined his life and sure didn’t help the image of the NBA.

n Clifford Rozier legacy: Can’t say there is one particular bad decision here, just a tragic story about Manatee County’s most famous and richest basketball player going from a multi-millionaire superstar to a troubled individual who lost everything.

5 blunders that won’t die

n Boston Red Sox trading Babe Ruth to the hated Yankees in 1919. The BoSox didn’t win another World Series until 2004 in what is commonly considered the worst decision in baseball history.

n Portland Trail Blazers selecting Sam Bowie in the 1984 NBA draft opting to pass over a fella named Michael Jordan.

n Pete Rose’s decision to bet on baseball games denied one of the game’s greatest players entrance into the Hall of Fame. But isn’t it time to forgive and forget and let him in?

n Jim Joyce’s blown call. The umpire cost Armando Galarraga his perfect game, but shouldn’t we blame this one on Bud Selig for his refusal to use video replays or intervene and reverse the call?

n In the 1972 Olympics, referees gave Russians three chances in the last three seconds to beat the Americans. This game has outlived every Olympic basketball story. It’s been 49 years, and the USA has still refused to pick up its silver medals, which sit in a vault in Switzerland.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-2112.