COLUMN: Dirk not ready to embrace Michael Young’s path to family life


By Mac Engel - Fort Worth Star-Telegram



FRISCO, Texas — Nothing raises doubt or creates more suspicion than the guy who quits and says, “I really just want to spend more time with my family.”

That is the single biggest lie told in sports, entertainment or politics.

One of DFW’s most revered jocks this week basically announced that he’s not ready to utter that famous line when we were sure it was coming.

But the Mavericks’Dirk Nowitzki is a man who means what he says, and he’s not ready to mean it. It looks as if he will sign a deal that will extend him for two more years, to 2019, when he is 40.

To transition from full-time pro jock to full-time Peter Griffin is more difficult than facing any pitcher or defender.

But then there is former Rangers player Michael Young, who was sincere in his desire to do this when he retired in 2013.

Young is in his fourth year as one of the team’s nine special assistants to general manager Jon Daniels. Do not expect him to be a full-time GM anytime soon, or ever. The lure is not greater than his ambition to be active with his family.

Young is smart enough to be a general manager, but he is hesitant to embrace that time-heavy pursuit.

I asked Young that, given the money he’s made and the role that he has with the club, why would he even want to take on the potential threat to his pristine reputation, not to mention the circus-like hours, headaches and responsibility required to do the job.

“I love the work and the organization, but it’s a good question,” Young told me Tuesday night at the Texas League celebrity all-star softball game. “At this point in my life, I don’t want to give up that time with my family.”

Young is 40, and has three kids, ages 4 to 12.

“We have three trips this summer, and I wouldn’t be able to make any of them if I had that job,” Young said. “That’s the priority for me right now. The team has been great; they involve me in every decision and respect my time.

“And I don’t think I want to be a GM. Right now, it’s really not on my radar. Having said that, I’m trying to soak up as much as I can. … As I get older, I’ll always keep the door open. I do know one thing, if I do decide to really dive in with both feet and take on more it’s going to be here in Texas.”

Don’t construe that as a backdoor lobby for JD’s job. Young doesn’t want it. I asked him if he thought in 10 years, when he’s 50, if he could envision wanting the job then.

“It’s tough to say. You can make arguments for both sides,” he said. “At that point my youngest my will be 14 and my oldest will be 22 and a senior in college and I’m going to want to visit him. My job right now is perfect.”

The strain and friction that existed between Daniels and Young in 2012 and 2013 is gone. To each man’s credit, they shut it down.

“Time has a way of healing things and JD has been great,” Young said. “He involves me in everything they do.”

Expect a Michael Young-type of role for Dirk whenever he is finally ready to retire. We thought that was going to be this coming season, but now no one knows.

When the Mavericks introduced first-round draft pick Dennis Smith Jr. at a press conference on Friday, team owner Mark Cuban was asked about transitioning from the post-Dirk years.

“Dirk thinks he can play another five years,” Cuban said.

He was half-kidding. Cuban, rightly, will give Dirk whatever he wants. Dirk gave Cuban’s voice as an NBA owner merit and helped create him as a some sort of omniscient celebrity, which he loves. If Dirk wants to play five more years, Dirk will be a Mav for five more years.

Other than his desire to continue to play, some people within the Mavs’ organization feel Dirk continues his career because he is simply afraid of being done and committing to the role of full-time retired guy who moonlights with his team as an adviser.

While he enjoys marriage and being a dad to three young children, transitioning to that role full-time is not something he’s ready to do. Because it’s scary. Because it is difficult. Nothing will ever occupy the ego like being an NBA star, even if the role of dad will ultimately be more fulfilling.

Dirk has been a basketball player since he was about 5. That’s his identity.

He’s not quite ready to take the Michael Young route, who when he says he wants to spend more time with his family he actually means it.

Dirk says what he means. He’s just not ready to say that just yet. We should all be so lucky to be this honest.

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By Mac Engel

Fort Worth Star-Telegram