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Coaching honours and stories always a highlight of the Finals


Yeah, about yesterday.

Confluence of events – early wakeup for an early flight, the fact it was an NBA charter meant there was no time to work in an airport and by the time we got the wireless figured out on the plane, it was too late and I had to write this on Draymond Green and this on the Cavs.

Sorry about that. Back in the Eastern time zone this week, though, so things will be normal. I hope.

One of the really cool events every year at the final is when the NBA Coaches Association announces the winner of its Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award.

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For a Guy Of A Certain Vintage it’s a chance to remember some old heads from back in the day, the news conference always attracts a crowd of a similar age and the stories are always great. And, really, it’s all about hearing and telling and recounting the stories, right?

Well, this year the group (and the bowtie lapel pin you used to see Dwane wear was in honour of the organization’s late executive director Michael Goldberg) honoured two of the greats after a tie in balloting among the eight electors.

Hubie Brown and Al Attles were both in the building to receive the award and it was, as you’d guess, quite a celebration.

Attles, if you can believe this, has now spent 57 straight years with Golden State, as a player, a player-coach, a coach, an executive, a consultant. Think of that. Fifty-seven years. That’s kind of amazing and it’s not like he’s just some figurehead because Steve Kerr made sure to end his pregame media session by telling everyone how valuable Attles’s guidance has been.

And Hubie? Well, Hubie’s a treasure of the game, isn’t he? You listen to him break down a game as an analyst and half the time you’re going “oh, yeah, I see that now” and half time you’re just smiling because of his voice and his stories.

Yeah, it was a really nice hour or so before the intensity of the game to salute the past, see some people and hear some stories.

And, of course, Hubie ends it with the winner about Attles that meanders and sputters and entertains.

(If you can read this while pretending to hear his scratchy voice, it makes it all the better.)

I would like to tell a story about him. I grew up in Elizabeth, and he was in Newark, Rick Barry grew up in Elizabeth and played at Roselle Park High School. We go back a long way. But I’m a high school coach. I’m sitting on my couch. And you remember the ABC had the Wide World of Sports, and Howard Cosell is on, and he’s interviewing Wilt Chamberlain. And he goes, you know, I wish I could do it like Howard did. And he said, Wilt, he said, is this true, that you are challenging Muhammad Ali to a heavyweight championship fight? So Wilt just is standing there, and he looks and he says, Howard, absolutely. He said, you know we’re talking about it right now. How could you challenge the number one heavyweight championship and bada-bada, he’s going on and on and on. And Wilt goes, just like this, this is great, he puts his hand up, he says, Howard, there’s only one guy that I would never fight, and he says, that happens to be The Destroyer, Al Attles.”

Never a bad idea to hear some Clash, right?

Add Johnny’s Little Bar – down an alley, all old wood floors and bars and chairs – to the list of good road “joints.”

It’s an old haunt of the great Wayne Embry, to whom we had a toast shortly after alighting on the stool, and it’s right at the top of the list. Great burgers, too.

Random guy in Fresh Air Store block and a half from San Francisco hotel spies frequent visitor wearing Finals credential Sunday.

“You with the NBA?”

“Sort of.  Reporter from Toronto covering the series.”

“What do you think about today?”

“The locals will win, too many weapons. Games are almost inevitable, they wear them down.”

“Yeah. The Eastern conference, I don’t know.  Thought your guys could have given Cleveland a run.”

“Yeah, so did I. But when Lowry got hurt …”

“Lowry’s too up and down. DeRozan? Now he’s a stud.”

My people sure look out for me.

The ink isn’t even dry on the press release about the Raptors pre-season games in Honolulu when three of the Irregulars are sending notes electronically to make sure I see it and to ask how I’m going to get there.

And while you know I’ll put my thinking cap on because that’s how I roll, it’s gonna be hard to convince the Tall Foreheads that we need to be there for a couple of meaningless pretend games against the Clippers.

I don’t know why the Raptors were the lucky ones to be picked to play the Clips, who’ll hold training camp in Hawaii before playing there. Maybe it’s because we’re going to be on the West Coast for camp anyway and it’s a lot shorter flight but you’d like another California team might make more sense.

Anyway, I’ve got some time to get creative and I will.

Let’s see.

Two nights here in Cleveland in April to end the NBA regular season, four nights here in May for the second round of the playoffs and at least five nights here in June for the NBA Finals.

I wonder when they’re going to offer me Honourary Cleveland Citizenship and what I’ll get for it.

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