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"My Day Job Is As COO of the NBA"

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"We want Russ!  We want Russ!"

The cheers thundered down from the rafters at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden.

"We want Russ!  We want Russ!"

Okay, maybe not from the rafters.  But they definitely thundered from the several hundred fans who were still around and had packed into the lower section of the theater at the conclusion of the first round of the NBA draft on Thursday night.

"We want Russ!  We want Russ!"

They came from far and wide.  They wore jerseys representing virtually each of the NBA's 30 teams and a variety of universities and high schools beyond that.  Only one entity seemed to unite the masses gathered in the bowels of the World's Most Famous Arena.

But former NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik was nowhere to be found.

The man best known for his dry wit and annual world-class announcing of the second round of the NBA draft stepped down two years ago, and fans have been clamoring for his return ever since.

But for all the Russ love -- and there was no shortage of it flowing at the Garden on Thursday -- it bears remembering that there is another man up there in his place these days.  Truth be told, the members of the NBA faithful may learn in time that the new man has the potential to be quite a character in his own right. 

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Adam Silver is tall and wiry with a head that is considerably more reasonably sized than that of, say, Jeff Van Gundy.  He doesn't have an entourage tailing him around, and he always seems to have a sneaky sort of smile on his face when he announces the names of second-round draftees, kind of like he's just happy to be there.  That's because he is.

The draft is "absolutely" the highlight of his NBA year: "My day job is as chief operating officer of the NBA.  I'm generally chained to my desk, in an office all day, doing business deals on behalf of the NBA."

Here's guessing the job of being the NBA's COO holds quite a bit more intrigue than the position's modest holder lets on.  Rest assured, we'll be doing our best to find out in the times to come.

For Silver, following in the footsteps of a surprise legend has its challenges -- namely facing a sometimes-hostile crowd.

"It's tough," Silver said.  "The 'We want Russ!' chants sort of knocked me off balance as I first came out, but I think I recovered.  I had a couple of Adam Silver supporters to my right as I came out, so I tried to make eye contact with them.  That’s what kept me going through the second round."

By the time that last sentence was out of his mouth, Silver's sneaking smile had enveloped his face in an ear-to-ear grin, and I was officially engaged in the first interview in recent memory in which I couldn't keep a straight face.  It felt like one of those commercials for ESPN Mobile in which the reporter interviews fans about their gutsy performances to obtain scores from their cell phones during serious formal affairs and trips to the emergency room.

The deputy commish was just getting started.

"I think I need to think about a different tie for next year," he continued, "I think the power red really didn't go over well with that crowd.  Maybe something in the brown family.  Maybe something more subdued that the New Yorkers can connect with."

I originally happened into Silver in a theater aisle as the custodial staff was cleaning up while the few others left in the building were getting ready to vacate the area.  He was walking alone rather briskly, and the ease with which he shifted gears into discussion mode was a pleasant surprise.  He was gracious and engaging right from the start. Perhaps it helped that I was his only interviewer of the evening -- when asked about his highlight of the night, his first answer was "Other than this interview?"

As the discussion progressed, Silver only grew more comfortable and seemed to enter his own element.  The non-CelticsBlog highlight of his night?  "Coming out on stage and hearing the New York fans heckle me."

But he does think the worst has passed from the non-believers.  "They were stronger last year," Silver said, "I'm not sure what language I can use on your blog, but when I came out last year, one guy stood up and said, 'Where Russ?'  That was the first thing I heard when I walked out.  I just took a deep breath and said, 'It's gonna be a tough crowd tonight.'"

Can't quite put my finger on it, but there is something strangely amusing about the COO of the Association telling me that he isn't sure what language he can use on our site.  The consideration on Adam's part is certainly appreciated though.

Though the crowd was sparse by the time the Celtics had made the final pick of the draft, those remaining still continued to serenade Silver with chants for his predecessor.  But the new second-round sheriff in town has maintained his confidence and has faith that he will win the masses over before all is said and done.

For now, it seems that Silver will be taking a clothes-make-the-man approach.  Asked for some final words for the doubters this year, Silver guaranteed future changes in the stylistic realm.

"I mentioned the tie, but the blue suit isn't doing it for them either.  I'll be thinking about the wardrobe between now and next June." 

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