By Dan Steinberg
Thursday, November 19, 2009
"I'm just so appreciative to come back," former Maryland Terrapins star Byron Mouton said during Wednesday's Maryland GreenHawks news conference. "I love playing basketball, and going out and talking to kids about global warming."
Look, this is going to take some getting used to for all of us. The NightHawks have gone green, changing their name, attracting green-friendly sponsors like Honest Tea, Sweet Green and http://www.Carbonfund.org, and holding an introductory event filled with talk of a future involving bamboo courts, hemp nets and uniforms made from recycled plastic.
"I've never been at a press conference talking about recycling," Coach Rob Spon later noted. "This is a first for me."
Spon's name plate was initially missing from the dais, so the quick-thinking Daniel Artest -- rebounding forward and brother of Ron -- grabbed General Manager Adam Dantus's tag and wrote "Coach Spon!" on it.
"It's a recyclable team, we're gonna recycle his nametag," Artest deadpanned.
"You're coming off the bench, Daniel," Dantus countered.
I've said it before and I'll say it again; the NightHawks, or GreenHawks, or whatever they're called, throw the best news conferences in the area, and it isn't even close. Three years ago, they introduced 7-foot-9 signee Sun Ming Ming at Meiwah. Two years ago, they welcomed Tamir "Jewish Jordan" Goodman and Coach Lawrence Moten.
And now this, an event at Bethesda Green featuring Artest, Mouton, a newly green mascot named Dunkin, former N.C. State star Scooter Sherrill, American University's Travis Lay, potential big-man coach Gheorghe Muresan, and a promise to balance the carbon footprint left by a home schedule at Wootton High, 10 road trips, and the team's corporate headquarters.
"I don't really know much about recycling, I just know blue bin and green bin," said Artest, who quickly became the favorite quote of the team's media contingent. "But if it's good, then I'm all for it. I guess we need cleaner air, cleaner streets, and I'm just all for it."
The GreenHawks won't start playing until Jan. 16, but they've already been dubbed "the pride of Montgomery County" and "a pioneer in promoting environmental conservation."
"This is not just a PR stunt to say the NightHawks are now green," said team owner Tom Doyle, before ticking off the team's environmental goals, which include the recycling of their basketball shoes and the development of a game-ready ball made of recycled materials. But heck, I wouldn't fault him if it were a stunt.
"Minor league basketball, it's not all about winning championships," said Spon, a man who once coached a franchise where players raced to the bank after receiving their checks so they'd get the first crack at the team's funds. "It's about selling tickets, generating sponsorships, putting people in seats. Now, we can do both."
What else? Well, Spon promises he'll wear a green suit and green ties. Artest said that Ron will be buying tickets for area children to attend the GreenHawks' games. And Mouton talked in the typically grandiose preseason language, the language of winning titles and changing the world.
"It's bigger than basketball, it's way bigger than basketball," he said. "I love playing, I'm gonna play hard, I'm gonna win a championship, but that's not the only thing. We're out here to convince the kids to recycle. Basketball's easy, that's nothing to me. We're gonna win a championship. But we're all here to convince kids to do the right thing."