By Bill Campbell

I can’t remember seeing or broadcasting a better comeback than the 76ers staged last Friday night against the Celtics. From the first jump ball, they were out-played, out-fought and out-hustled. Leading by 13 and with just seconds remaining in the first half and, Boston coach Doc Rivers called a time-out meeting to put two more points on this impressive lead. There was time to execute merely one play and the Celtics ran it to perfection. It was made easier because the 76ers looked like they had given up on the half and, to all intents and purposes, the game. The margin at half-time was 15. It wasn’t just the size of the lead, it was the way it was achieved against a Philadelphia defense that never put an honest effort on display in the first half. The Celts looked like they could do anything they wanted with the ball – and almost did.

That 76ers coach Doug Collins was able to bring his team back into contention in the second half has to go into the books as one of the great coaching achievements of the century. The team’s response to whatever the coaching staff disclosed to them during the break was monumental. Boston just collapsed and its unraveling was almost as fascinating to watch as was the efficiency of its offence in the first. All told, it made for great theater.

Every coach of every team, regardless of the sport, should preserve a tape of this game for those dramatic occasions when words simply fail. Competitors everywhere should have the chance to see the skilled execution of the first-half Boston offense as well as the character-driven comeback of the second half 76ers defense. Trying to define and contrast both performances in mere words is almost impossible. Local columnist Bob Ford probably described it best when he led off by writing, “Winning a game by making the other team play ugly counts the same as winning one by playing beautifully yourself”. That seems to sum up last Friday’s encounter as well as anyone could.

Now this looks like a series that has a good chance to go the maximum seven games and the home court advantage means everything. So far it has produced blow-outs, one-pointers  – and a masterpiece.

Eagles and Shady McCoy

The Eagles decided to handle the LeSean McCoy deal a bit differently than the way they did the future of DeSean Jackson last year. In fact, the Birds have had the most productive off-season in recent history. The front office must have concluded that last season’s disappointing start must not to be repeated. Also, the success of the Phillies both on the field and at the gate with all those consecutive sell-outs and related headlines, have made their point. McCoy received a five-year extension worth $45 million which guarantees that he’ll be around in Eagle green through the 2017 season, as well as providing him with a personal assurance of over $20 million.

Most observers believe the Eagles had a good draft several weeks ago, spearheaded by their general manager, Howie Roseman – but it looks like Andy Reid may have had a little something to do with it. It also more than suggests that this business about Reid being under the gun to win in 2012 or he may not make it to 2013 is true. If Reid has to win it this coming season, he needs players all around him. He not only needs McCoy. He also needs satisfactory contracts for DeSean Jackson and fair deals for middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, tackle Todd Herremans, defensive end Trent Cole and a few others. You can’t win without the players – particularly happy, satisfied players. Without that sort of assembled cast, Coach Reid has no chance and he must realize that inescapable fact.

The McCoy deal recalls the contract Brian Westbrook signed in 2008. Westbrook, who might have been the best running back in Eagles history, signed a five-year deal that paid him about $3 million in 2008. Coming off of his two best seasons and considered indispensable to the Eagles’ future, Westbrook agreed to a three-year deal worth about $21 million. And that team had gone to the Super Bowl. It makes you wonder how much Reid had to say about personnel in those days and whether his influence on salary negotiations has changed over the years. Everyone seems to think that Reid had great influence in the McCoy deal. If so, why not also in past negotiations? After all, he has to coach these guys every day and has for all these years. Maybe they should have checked with him before now. What took them so long?

Horse Racing

Consumption of alcohol has been a concern in sports for years but it has even become a consideration in horse racing.

Jockey Kent Desormeaux, poised for his tenth Preakness ride, was removed from Preakness entrant Tiger Walk on Saturday because he had failed a Breathalyzer test. The test failure occurred at Belmont Park, New York on Friday and Desormeaux was taken off three mounts on the program that day. He has not been suspended but the New York State Racing and Wagering Board is conducting an investigation. According to new rules, every jockey named to ride is subject to undergoing random alcohol testing. Desormeaux was caught by that rule. I guess every bettor is comforted to know that, at best, the jockey on his “hot tip” is completely sober. But all of this became yesterday’s news when the Preakness was run.

Bodemeister was the Preakness favorite. Hhe was nipped at the wire by the Kentucky Derby winner, I’ll Have Another, who now has revived all of the Triple Crown talk. The fractions were fast at Churchill Downs on a very fast track, but mediocre at the Preakness on a so-so surface. Yet I’ll Have Another had Bodemeister’s number at the end. The amazing colt has never been favored in any of his previous races. He was 43 to 1 when he won the Robert Lewis race in February, 4 to 1 when he won the Santa Anita Derby, 15 to1 at the Kentucky Derby and a 3 to1 second choice at the Preakness. That might change when he gets to Belmont.

The Cinderella story of I’ll Have Another’s success has ignited Triple Crown buzz for the first time since Affirmed won all three in 1978. The horse was purchased for $11,000 as a yearling and for $35,000 as a two-year-old by J. Paul Reddam. His trainer is Doug O’Neill and the jockey Mario Gutierrez  To date, he’s won over $2 million for Reddam. This underdog keeps finishing first. Looks like he was well-named.

A Final Thought

Come to think of it, we don’t hear much from the Eagles’ Joe Banner anymore. In the past, he seemed like the most authoritative voice in team personnel matters. In light of the recent draft and contract signings, I think the head coach does have a bit more to say and more influence to exercise these days. Maybe he is under the gun to win this year and they decided to let him pick the players. Rather strange that they didn’t come to that conclusion sooner. Owner Jeffrey Lurie seemed to make everything clear at his strange press conference at the end of last season. He will have the final word this time too. But at the Eagles most recent press conference there was a seat for Reid, one for Shady McCoy and one for Roseman. None for Banner or Lurie. I wonder what is going on behind the Eagles scene?