Posts Tagged ‘Don Nelson’

Just A Start To The Thunder’s Challenge


HOUSTON — It was 44 years ago when Don Nelson’s foul-line jumper kicked improbably high off the back of the rim, fell right down through the net and kept all of those celebration balloons trapped up there at the ceiling in the Forum.

That was an ending.

Nelson’s shot gave the Celtics the two-point margin they needed in Game 7 of the NBA Finals for another championship over the Lakers.

Kevin Durant’s shot with 41.9 seconds left on the clock took Nelson’s little tap dance on the rim and turned it into an entire chorus production. The first bounce kicked so high off the back of the rim that it cleared the top of the backboard, then teasingly hit the front rim and then the back rim two more times before sliding down into the basket, a Tibetan prayer wheel offering that was answered immediately.

This was just a beginning.

Before the Thunder get to jubilantly race off a court somewhere to celebrate a championship, there will likely have to be many more nights like this, where they sizzle and fizzle, where they thrive and survive, where they just grind on.

It was the first time in five years — and 440 games — that Durant ran out onto a basketball court wearing an Oklahoma City jersey without running mate and buddy Russell Westbrook at his side.

The lightning rod point guard was back at home watching on TV after having undergone surgery Saturday to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee. That means the road to the top of the mountain just got far bumpier and more treacherous.

“It feels the same,” Durant said. “I just go out there on the court, and I knew I had to give it my all no matter what. That’s what I’m going to do for however many games we have to play…I’m going to give it my all no matter what and not worry about missed shot, turnovers or anything.”

But Durant knows that the margin for error just got slimmer than a supermodel’s waist. No more nights when Westbrook and all of his inherent idiosyncrasies and flaws will be able to bail out the Thunder with his bodacious talent and his sheer audacity.

Now there will be far more nights like this one where wilo-’o-the-wisp Durant has to go the virtual distance, getting all of 44 seconds to rest on the bench while putting up 30 shots to equal his career playoff high of 41 points.

Now there will be more nights when the Thunder will have to rely on the combo of second-year Reggie Jackson and 17th year Derek Fisher to hold down Westbrook’s position at the point.

Now there will be more nights when Serge Ibaka has to be the leaping, dominating monster at both ends of the floor with 17 points, 11 rebounds, two official blocked shots and about a dozen more altered.

The Thunder built a 26-point lead early in the third quarter and had to hold on to the final tick of the clock because they’re now missing one of the legs they usually stand on.

“It definitely was an emotional time the last 48 hours,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We all love what Russell is about. The guy has probably the biggest heart I’ve ever been around. He’s done a great job of putting us in this position.”

But now the season-ending injury puts the Thunder in the position of having to, if not reinvent themselves on the fly, at least make a major adjustment.  So here they are against an inexperienced No. 8 seed in Houston — the youngest team in the NBA this season — getting burns on the palms of their hands as the rope slips through.

If it wasn’t a case of being physically spent, then OKC had to be mentally exhausted from battling all night to fill in the gaps. Brooks had said before the game that it’s just a matter of getting everybody to do “a little bit.”

However, in playoff games that little bit can become a quite heavy lift.

There were the Rockets, playing with few expectations and not much to lose, roaring back. Here was picking up a loose ball that Kevin Martin seemed to lose as the shot-clock ran down and Ibaka flicking it up over his head and off the glass with 1:25 left in the game. Here was the untested-in-the-playoffs Jackson, standing at the foul line and draining two nervy free throws with eight seconds remaining and then leaping up and latching onto the final rebound of the game when Carlos Delfino’s 3-pointer missed just ahead of the horn.

“We learned Russell was going to be out at practice (Friday),” said forward Nick Collison, “but eventually we have to get over it. You have to be able to move on and play. We’re basketball players and we’re in the playoffs and we have to get ourselves ready to play.

“Our problems were more execution and a lot of that has to do with playing without Russell because we rely on him for a lot on the court.”

It took the Rockets missing numerous opportunities down the stretch — open shots that clanked off the rim and turnovers that were fatal — for the Thunder to escape.

For a team that entered the playoffs with its sights set strictly on playing all the way into June and getting back to The Finals, now each game, every day, each ensuing round will be a challenge.

They will need to learn to get by without the nonpareil talents of Westbrook to pull them out of the fire, get things done with pure execution or enough similar fortuitous bounces as Durant’s improbable 3-pointer, a tantalizing dance-of-the-seven-veils shot that pulled them back from the brink of what could have been a crushing defeat, giving birth to recrimination and doubt.

“The Lord was with us,” he said. “That’s all I was thinking. I knew as soon as that shot hit the back rim, I was thinking, ‘Not again. Tough 3 shot. Maybe I should have drove. Maybe I should have got a foul.’ But it was able to bounce in and all because of the good Lord. I really can’t say too much else about that. I’m glad we made it.”

A happy ending for now. But really just the start of a grind.

— Series Hub: Thunder vs. Rockets

Karl Recalls His Golden State Memories

George Karl and Warriors forward Rod Higgins in 1987 (by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

George Karl and Warriors forward Rod Higgins in 1987 (by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

DENVER – It was a bad breakup in so many ways. There was hurtful talk about his drinking, honest talk about his emotions while growing into the job, and wonder about whether a friend, Don Nelson, did him in as Warriors coach to have the job for himself.

That was after 1987-88. Or last week, the way George Karl can so easily recall the conflict of two often-turbulent seasons in Golden State set against the view today that his time in Oakland helped him develop into one of the coaching superstars of the game.

It was difficult personally … and it was good for him. And now it is right in front of him. Karl’s current team, the Nuggets, are playing one of his former teams, the Warriors, in the first round of the playoffs that resume with Game 2 on Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center (10:30 ET, TNT), and so it was inevitable that part of his past would come up.

Monday, after the Nuggets practiced with a 1-0 series lead, was the day. One more game and he would be back in Oracle Arena, the renovated former Oakland Coliseum he once called home, for the playoffs.

“The first memory that comes to mind,” Karl said, “is coming from down 0-2 in my first year there to win a five-game series, which at that time was the second team ever to do it. I now have the honor of doing it and having it done to me. I think I’m the only one that has that other. Another historical stuff. The 0-2 game, I don’t know if you remember, but there was a fight after the game between Karl Malone and Greg Ballard. We lost the game and a fight breaks out. I ran on the court and a fan hits me from behind. I go running after the fan and Chris Mullin and Purvis Short just run by me and kick the (heck) out of him, take care of the fan for me. Here you go down 0-2, you walk into the locker room, maybe the hardest speech in basketball, and the speech is made for you because you just had this basic altercation. We come back and win all three games.

“I’m sure I was more – I don’t know – fiery or confrontational. Demanding. I had an insecure ego, probably. I think the thing that I feel better about myself now is my ego was out of control probably at that time. I was a young guy that a lot of people thought could coach, but I didn’t know maybe how to handle the responsibility of coaching. The next year, we made the Joe Barry Carroll trade and Mully goes into rehab and Larry Smith pops his hamstring. That’s what happens the first month of the season. I had one of those teams that could play anybody until about 10 minutes to go, eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and then no matter who we were playing we would lose the game. That’s a very frustrating thing to go through. When you’re a young coach, you think it’s you. Now I see teams well-coached, doing their job. The good teams turn up the defense, put the foot on the pedal and they always catch and usually sometimes go by you by five or six or 10. That was a tough year. I think ownership at that time wanted Nellie to coach. I was in a position where they felt the team needed a change and my ego might have pissed off a few people along the way.” (more…)

1,000: Adelman Celebrates Milestone


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — It took longer than expected during this difficult season marred by an onslaught of injury and a family illness, but Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman reached 1,000 career wins Saturday night.

Adelman’s Minnesota Timberwolves got the job done at home, knocking off the Detroit Pistons, allowing the home crowd to join in the celebration. In attendance was Adelman’s wife, Mark Kay, who was hospitalized during the season with an illness that still has no definitive diagnosis. Adelman, 66, took time away from the team to care for her and he has contemplated retiring after the season to stay by her side.

For the moment, through a tumultuous season full of disappointment, Saturday’s victory provided a rare chance to smile and reflect on a tremendous coaching career. Adelman’s career record stands at 1,000-703 (.587). In his 22nd season, Adelman became the eighth coach to reach 1,000 career wins (joining Don NelsonLenny WilkensJerry SloanPat RileyPhil Jackson, Larry Brown and George Karl) and he is the fifth-fastest to reach the milestone

“Glad we got it done tonight,” said Adelman, one of the game’s most innovative if also most understated coaches, said after the 107-101 victory. “It was tough game; they played well. Our guys hung in there and made some plays down the stretch to win the game. Like I said earlier, it’s a great group of players who stayed with us all year long and never stopped playing. They kept battling it through; the coaching staff too. It was good to get it here especially at home.”

Here’s Adelman in his own words, courtesy of The Wolves’ media relations department:

On moment with Mary Kay making everything worthwhile…

“She had to be part of it. I told her I was going to bring her down. She wasn’t very happy about that but she has been there all the years. When you go through a job like this in situations and you move and raise six kids and everything else; if it wasn’t for her I couldn’t have done it. So I’m really glad we did it here. It relieves a little bit of stress. Like I said to you before the game, I think it was in some ways when I look back, it was good for this group. We have had such a tough time that you are just trying to scrap wins out. When you have something like this that you are actually working for there is expectations; there is a little bit more pressure and I think that is good because this group we have to learn what that is all about. To be a good team that’s where the expectations are. It’s not just to win a game, it’s to keep going. I’m really happy with the way they have played the last week.”

On the list of coaching names he has joined…

“It’s special people. Some of the names up there, it’s incredible. I never ever expected to be with that group. But like I said before, I have had some really special situations and we were able to stay a couple of places for a long time, which doesn’t happen in this league very often. To get that many wins, there are good players involved and good coaches staffs involved and good organizations involved. It was special to get this.”

On it being more special to have his sons on his coaching staff…

“That was one of the big reasons why I came here. You always want to win, you always want to have good situations to give yourself a chance because it’s a tough job, but I learned in Houston when we lost Yao [Ming] and lost Tracy McGrady and a bunch of guys that busted our tails every night. It was a lot of fun coaching that group. When I looked at this group this year it’s the same thing. I think there is other ways to get enjoyment. Everybody talks about how you have to win; yeah that’s part of it, but to get around a group of guys you can coach you see them grow individually and as a team, that’s also part of it. And to have my two sons involved, yeah it’s special. That is a huge reason why this was an attractive situation to me. They just didn’t tell me about April before this year that it was so hard to win games in April. I think we have a really group. Like I said, they have really maintained this whole year.”

On where this milestone ranks…

“It’s way up there. Now that it’s done you think about all the years and everything else. It’s pretty special. This has been a difficult year. You have to give credit. You have to thank Glen, David and the whole organization for staying behind me because it was a tough situation. There was never a doubt that I was going to be able to do what I thought I needed to do because of their support.”

On the journey to get here and knowing son Ricky and Derrick weren’t born when he got his first victory…

“Well thanks a lot (laughs). I feel older. I feel older. There is a thousand wins that everybody keeps talking about but I don’t know how many losses too. [He’s told 703] Yeah, okay thanks. I knew you would know. I didn’t know (laughs). It is something that you learn as you go on in this league. Like I said, great situations where you walk on the court and you know you have a great chance to win every night. This situation it was tough going out there every day. You learn that it’s a tough business. You have to learn to handle that as well as you do the wins. I think the players have to learn you can’t accept it. It’s part of your job and we got thrown a really tough curveball this year with everything that happened. Even last year at the end of the year. But again, I compliment them for staying with it and hopefully we can get some more before the season ends.”

Pop The Rock Rolls Up On Win No. 900


HANG TIME, Texas — It’s no wonder most NBA coaches are constantly moving on the sidelines. Theirs is a peripatetic lifestyle, usually with one hand gripping a suitcase and one foot out the door.

Among many other things about his worldly background and his puckish personality, it is his stability that makes Gregg Popovich unique.

With a win tonight at home against the Jazz (8:30 ET, League Pass), Popovich will become the 12th coach in NBA history to win 900 career games, but will be the first to claim each and every victory with a single team.

Over the past 17 seasons, the Spurs have been Pop as much as much as they have been David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and the other 130 players who have worn the silver and black uniform.

In a league that is teeming with exceptional coaches — Denver’s George Karl, Boston’s Doc Rivers, Minnesota’s Rick Adelman, Memphis’ Lionel Hollins, Dallas’ Rick Carlisle, Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra — Popovich stands a step apart and above.

He is always the first and usually the last to tell you that it’s all about the players, but to a man, they will tell you he is the one whom they are all about in the way the prepare, work and attack every game and play.

When he sat at a makeshift table for a news conference last spring when he was named Coach of the Year for the second time in his career, Popovich’s face turned different shades of red. But it wasn’t for the usual reasons of screaming at a referee or boiling at another question from a reporter. He was, in short, embarrassed with the attention.

Pop’s Way. That’s what they call it around the executive offices and on the practice floor and in the locker room.

“It’s about us, not me,” he said, sheepish from the attention.

But year after year, season after season, it has been about him getting the most out of his team by being willing to change the pace of play — from slogging, powerful inside ball to Duncan to a microwave fastbreak that is sparked by Parker — but never his principles or his own personal style.

He just wears suits, doesn’t model them.

“They’re not Italian,” he told an inquiring mind years ago.

He doesn’t do TV commercials or endorsements.

“I refuse,” he said another time. “I’d rather spend time in other ways.”

Pat Riley, the Hall of Fame coach and stylist, once said the Spurs are “the most emotionally stable team in the league.”

That’s because it is a team in Popovich’s image. He picks the players, he builds the team, he molds them and has constructed a franchise that has always eschewed endearing to be enduring. It’s all added up to the best record in the Western Conference again, an NBA record 14 consecutive 50-win seasons, 16th straight trips to the playoffs and puts him on the doorstep of history, all in one place.

After 900 wins, Pop won’t be going anywhere but straight ahead. (more…)

End Of Era: Only Beards Grow In Dallas


HANG TIME, Texas — Pity poor Jessica Nowitzki, who is not a fan of the Mavericks drive-for-.500 beards.

“It’s not a good look,” husband Dirk admitted the other day. “My wife doesn’t like it that much. But I guess we’ve all got to suck it up and reach our goal.”

It might be time to wonder how tolerant Mrs. Nowitzki will be by October, when the Mavs have a more realistic shot to reach the break-even mark after their spectacular 136-103 flameout in Houston? By that time Dirk and his teammates could look like so many Rip Van Winkles or extras from the cast of “Lincoln”.

The Mavs hardly resemble a team that is sharpening its razors or its playoff claws as a lost season staggers toward the finish. They couldn’t defend, get enough shots for their biggest gun or do much of anything right against the Rockets.

“At the clip, we’re losing and losing (close) games at home, and those are the games you have to win if you want to be in the playoffs,” Nowitzki said. “We haven’t shown consistently that we can big games. We have to fight and we have another game on Wednesday and we’ll see what we got.”

What they’ve got is a season that jumped off track when Dirk missed the first 27 games following knee surgery and has never developed a sense of rhythm or direction. Now a team that has not won more than three consecutive games all season would have to go 15-8 over the final six weeks just to get to the .500 mark and it’s unlikely that 41-41 would be good enough to make the playoffs anyway.

It’s the end of an era. Assuming there is no postseason basketball in Dallas this spring, it will bring an end to the best stretch of basketball in franchise history, ending a playoff streak that stretches back to 2001, the first full season under Mark Cuban’s ownership.

The Mavs string of 12 consecutive playoff appearances is tied for the 13th-longest in league history and is the second-best active streak in the NBA, trailing only San Antonio’s 15 and counting.

The highlight, of course, was the 2011 championship, but more than a decade of always reaching the playoffs is a worthy feat that marks consistency and constant striving by what has become a model franchise.

How long has it been? Consider that the first year of the playoff streak, coached by Don Nelson (53-39), had a roster that included Shawn Bradley, Christian Laettner, Juwan Howard, Vernon Maxwell, Wang Zhizhi a rookie named Eduardo Najera and a 27-year-old Steve Nash, along with Nowitzki who was in his second NBA season.

Now only Dirk remains as the Mavs close in on coming full circle to his non-playoff rookie season.

“If you want to be in the playoffs we haven’t showed consistently we can win big games,” Nowitzki said. “It was a nice win in Brooklyn [on Friday], and we can’t follow it up.

“Not consistent enough even over one game. A decent half, a decent three quarters here and there, and one garbage quarter. It’s never consistent enough to really be a playoff threat.”

It was a long road and long climb by the Mavs to get to the top of the mountain, but the only thing getting longer these days is those beards.

Najera Busts Barriers From Bench Now

FRISCO, Texas — During the first round of the 2010 playoffs, in his second stint with the Dallas Mavericks — the team and the city he always called home no matter where roamed in the NBA — Eduardo Najera decided to shake things up.

The Spurs were doing a number on the Mavs in Dallas and the muscular, 6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward had seen enough of the slap-and-hack defense on Dirk Nowitzki. So when Manu Ginobili drove the lane, Najera collared him and Ginobili crashed to the floor. The foul deserved to be and was called a flagrant 2, garnering an automatic ejection. But Najera had grabbed everyone’s attention.

“It was kind of frustrating to watch some of them hit Dirk in the face,” Najera would say. “So I just came in and tried to prove a point that we’re going to fight back. And that’s what’s going to happen.”

As a player, Najera, still the only Mexican-born player ever drafted in the NBA, never had to search for an identity. He simply was physical, intense, hard-nosed and unrelenting. Don’t mistake the Ginobili foul; Najera wasn’t a dirty player, but he wasn’t afraid to take the fight to the opponent.

These days those attributes don’t translate so well wearing a suit. As a rookie coach of the NBA D-League’s Texas Legends, developing an identity, a sideline demeanor, just doesn’t come as naturally.

“I am pretty intense,” Najera said. “I really believe that my identity as a player has carried on to this level as a coach. Yes, I call it the way I see it. I don’t treat players differently, they are all the same to me and I go off on one through 15, and that includes my assistant coaches.” (more…)

Mavs’ 3-Point Streak Ends at 1,108 Games


HANGTIME SOUTHWEST — Robert Pack, Travis Best, Antoine Walker, Antoine Wright, Dan Dickau, Erick Dampier, Danny Manning.

Just a few of the names that contributed along the way to the Dallas Mavericks’ remarkable (but once not unrivaled) 3-point shooting streak. For 1,108 consecutive games entering Friday night’s chilly visit to Toronto, at least one Mavericks player has made at least one 3-point shot.

Back when gas cost a buck-seventeen, before George W. Bush became president, as Y2K threatened every last computer, even pre-dating Mark Cuban‘s first NBA fine, Michael Finley and Erick Strickland combined to make three 3-pointers in a 97-90 win over the Sacramento Kings at the now-demolished Reunion Arena.

The date was Feb. 27, 1999.

Keith Van Horn, Cedric Ceballos, Shawn Bradley, Trenton Hassell, Adam Harrington, Danny Manning, Rawle Marshall.

On Feb. 26, 1999, the season was just 13 games old because of the lockout. Dirk Nowitzki was a rookie. Don Nelson was in his second year as head coach. The Mavs were 4-9, but had won two in a row when they got to Salt Lake City. In the middle game of a back-to-back-to-back, the Mavs missed all eight 3-point attempts and lost to the Jazz 80-65.

Incredibly, it would still stand as the last game that the Mavs didn’t make at least one 3-pointer as they arrived Friday at Air Canada Centre.

Drew Gooden, Juwan Howard, Antoine Rigaudeau, Steve Novak, Matt Carroll, Jerry Stackhouse, Vernon Maxwell.

On this night, the Mavs would not have available the franchise’s top three active 3-point shooters. Nowitzki, the all-time leader, remains shelved after October knee surgery. Jason Terry, second, plays for the Boston Celtics. Jason Kidd, fourth, plays for the New York Knicks. Third on the list is Finley. He works in the Mavs’ front office.

As play entered the fourth quarter, the Raptors held a 69-55 lead. One reason was Dallas had yet to make a 3-pointer, missing all 12 attempts. Toronto had made seven of its 24, hardly a flattering percentage, yet a 21-point differential nonetheless.

Early in the fourth quarter, Derek Fisher looked to have extended the streak to 1,109. But after a replay review, Fisher’s foot was determined to be stepping on the arc. Two points.

Dallas would attempt one more and miss it: 0-for-13.

Brandon Bass, Steve Nash, J.J. Barea, James Singleton, Kelenna Azubuike, Alexis Ajinca, Lamar Odom.

Fifteen times during the streak, the Mavs skated by with a lone 3-pointer. Arguably the most famous streak-saver came on April 19, 2006, the final game of the season. With a playoff seed wrapped up, coach Avery Johnson sat out some starters, including Nowitzki getting his first rest of the season, and he greatly limited others.

With Dallas trailing 84-68 to the Seattle SuperSonics, Johnson drew up a play to get DeSagana Diop his first career 3-pointer with less than a minute to go in the 7-foot center’s fifth season.

By gosh, he hit it.

“You think I would’ve shot it if he [Johnson] didn’t draw it up?” Diop would say, smiling.

The streak lived on, 610 games strong, into another offseason.

Wang Zhizhi, Eduardo Najera, Josh Howard, Marquis Daniels, Antawn Jamison, Christian Laettner, Hubert Davis.

The second-longest consecutive 3-point streak in NBA history belongs, coincidentally, to the Raptors at 986 games.

And now for the truly bizarre part. Remember the date Feb. 26, 1999? The night the Mavs went 0-for-8 from behind the arc in Utah — the last game they would not make at least one 3-pointer for the next 13 years — the Raptors’ Vince Carter, Doug Christie and Dee Brown combined to make four 3-pointers in a 102-92 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Who knows how minuscule the odds, but one night before the Mavs embarked on their record streak, the Raptors had started their own, one that would span 986 games until Jan. 24, 2011.

On Dec. 14, 2012, the Raptors finally stopped Dallas’ at a potentially untouchable 1,108.

Majerus’ Hoops Impact, Friendships Transcended NBA, NCAA Lines

CHICAGORick Majerus‘ formal connections to the NBA were modest. He spent one season as an assistant coach on Don Nelson’s staff with the Milwaukee Bucks (1986-87), and for a number of years was a TV analyst of the college prospects on NBA Draft coverage.

But basketball is basketball. Xs & Os are the 1s & 0s of the game’s binary code, a universal language across its many levels.

The man who died Saturday at age 64 after years of battling heart disease – for all his NCAA success at Marquette, Ball State, Utah and most recently Saint Louis – had friends, mentors and devotees who reached basketball heights (The Finals, the Olympics, the Naismith Hall of Fame). And he had fans and now mourners who never left the gyms and playgrounds of Salt Lake City or Milwaukee, where Majerus was most comfortable, after all.

Tom Thibodeau, coach of the Chicago Bulls, had known of Majerus through Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers -– it was Majerus, remember, who christened the kid formerly known as Glenn with that nickname (Rivers wore a Julius “Dr. J” Erving T-shirt to a summer basketball camp where Majerus was working). But after Thibodeau got hired by the Bulls in 2010, a friendship developed between the two basketball lifers.

That first year, Thibodeau met Majerus in Milwaukee for a long dinner about basketball and life – the stout and curious Majerus rarely had any other kind. Then in the summer of 2011, the two got together – with mutual hoops junkies Scott Layden (now Spurs assistant GM) and Jay Larranaga (Celtics assistant), and Majerus’ girlfriend – for a week in Santa Barbara, Calif.

More coaching chatter. More lavish meals, no matter how low-rent the joint. More philosophizing. Genuine and not one of those sideline strutters from central casting.

“We’d talk basketball during the day,” Thibodeau said late Saturday, after the Bulls’ victory over Philadelphia at United Center. “Went out to dinner at night. Went for rides and stuff. He could talk about so many different things.

“The guy was just mesmerizing. He could talk about any aspect of the game. I have piles of notes about his basketball philosophy. He’s probably one of the top five basketball coaches at any level.”

Like many who knew Majerus, Thibodeau thought of him as a combination of the Marquette coaches who gave Majerus his start, part gamesman like Al McGuire, part details guy like assistant Hank Raymonds. But Thibodeau also saw, so many years later, the influence of Nelson, the Bucks’ “mad scientist” coach, from their season together and subsequent friendship.

“Nellie is very innovative, and it opened up the way Rick looked at things,” Thibodeau said. “He was one of those guys, I think he could have been a great coach in any sport. He understood things like team building.”

Majerus had attended the Bulls’ home game against Denver last spring at United Center – Nuggets coach George Karl was another of his great NBA friends. Thibodeau spoke with him in June, when Majerus’ exit from Saint Louis was still a health sabbatical, not yet the forced retirement that was announced last month. They missed each other in L.A., unknowingly staying in the same hotel when Thibodeau went out to meet with free agent Omer Asik.

“It’s so sad. I feel terrible,” Thibodeau said. “He lived life to the fullest, that’s for sure.

“The job he did at Utah – unbelievable, taking that team to the championship game against Kentucky. Think about that. Last year he had such a great year, too [with the Billikens] and he had that team coming back.

“He was one of those guys who got absolutely the most out of his teams. Whatever ‘the most’ could be, he did it year after year after year. To me, that’s the mark of greatness, to be able to do it over a long period of time. And he did it so many different places.”

Here are other reactions from Saturday night, from Majerus’ NBA connections:

Rivers: “That’s a tough one for me. He’s the one that gave me my name. … I knew before the game that he wasn’t going to make it through the night. I don’t want to talk much about it.”

Bucks assistant Jim Boylan, the point guard on Marquette’s 1977 NCAA title team: “For me personally he’s always been there. He’s one of those guys where, you don’t see Rick for a while and then when something is going wrong or you needed some help, boom, he’d be there. He did so much for me over the years when I was trying to get my career going, just extending himself and giving you whatever you needed, whether it was a phone call or having me come out to Salt Lake and stay with him 4-5 weeks at a time working. He would basically give you the shirt off his back if that’s what you needed – whatever it took. He’s going to be really missed. A great person.”

Milwaukee scout Bo Ellis, top player on that Warriors squad: “When I came to Marquette, Rick was still very young. He was just getting started too. But always prepared. Great basketball mind. I remember, he stole all of [Al McGuire’s] jokes. A good person and a fantastic basketball man.”

Rounding Up Usual (And Unusual) Suspects For Lakers Job

Considering how much of what the Los Angeles Lakers do is driven by entertainment, more than any of the other NBA teams, there’s a must-see moment waiting to happen as the team scouts for a replacement for Mike Brown, fired Friday as head coach after a disappointing 1-4 start.

The Buss family that owns the team ought to bring in Stan Van Gundy for an interview, then set up hidden cameras for the moment when it leaks to the players.

The list of “Who’s” was instantaneous Friday, compiled in pieces or in full on the Internet almost as swiftly as word of Brown’s firing spread. Here is a quickie list of candidates with HTB assessments of their pros and cons:

Jordan, Magic Among 2012 Hall of Fame Presenters

HANG TIME WEST – The Hall of Fame on Tuesday announced a star-studded group of presenters for the induction ceremony next Friday night in Springfield, Mass., a list headed by Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson that is powerful enough to overshadow most of the actual inductees.

Their role is strictly ceremonial, nothing more than standing on stage as the enshrinees speak. And some choices are assigned for a person or team without a personal connection to a current Hall of Famer, as the rules require. But some in the past have been interesting selections – Jordan requesting David Thompson despite not having any relationship, Karl Malone choosing Willis Reed against the same backdrop, both in nods to home-state heroes – and the presenters this time are noteworthy for the number of all-time greats.

The complete list of enshinees and their presenters:

All America Redheads — Teresa Edwards.

Lidia Alexeeva – Will not be present.

The late Don BarksdaleBob Cousy.

Mel DanielsWayne Embry and Artis Gilmore.

Phil Knight – Jordan and John Thompson.

Katrina McClain – Edwards, Julius Erving, and C. Vivian Stringer.

Hank NicholsHubie Brown.

Don NelsonChris Mullin, Bob Lanier and Satch Sanders.

Reggie MillerCheryl Miller, Charles Barkley and Johnson.

Ralph SampsonKareem Abdul-Jabbar, Erving, and Barkley.

Chet WalkerBilly Cunningham, Earl Monroe, Adrian Dantley and Isiah Thomas.

Jamaal Wilkes – Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, Rick Barry and Bill Walton.

In all, officials are expecting approximately 50 Hall of Famers to attend, either as participants or to watch and join in private functions.