Chris Mullin

Hopefully you’ll hear more about Chris Mullin from me, but he hit me here and he hit me now, and here’s why. Been thinking about this stuff I’m writing on this here blog, and invariably, something may happen … you know, someone may take offense. Someone may say what I wrote was untrue. Or maybe I’ll inadvertently betray a confidence.

All that got me to thinking about Chris Mullin, and the whole “on the record,” and “off the record” stuff. On the one hand, this is my blog, I’ve been around, I can write what I want. And as my dad would say … “let the chips fall.”

But trust me, the whole thing’s a nightmare. When you spend 90 percent of your life talking basketball, and it’s with basketball people, and it becomes your entire life, and don’t get me wrong, you love it, it does get difficult what to share and what to conceal, what to acknowledge and what to deny … what to say to whom and when and what not to say … if you know what I mean.

BTW, this isn’t about Mullin thinking I wrote something I shouldn’t have. Or Mullin getting mad at me for something. No this is about Mullin’s “philosophy” or “view” about loyalty, keeping secrets and the only way two people can ensure privacy.

Mullin and I were talking about confidences, etc., and he said, “Let me tell you what (former St. John’s coach) Lou Carnessecca told me a long time ago. He said there’s only one way to tell something to someone in confidence. First, you have to go to the beach with the person you want to confide in. Then you walk out into the Atlantic Ocean together until the water comes up to your chin. Then, and only then, do you know it’s a private conversation.”

It was also Mullin’s way of saying … “If I tell you something and we’re not in the Atlantic Ocean, then I’m trusting you with information and I’ll take my chances.” With Mullin you always erred on the side of caution … as in don’t ever tell anyone anything Mullin ever told me.

hard to remember what to reveal and what to conceal, what you want to share and what you don’t

and to whom and when, where why, and all of it.

the whole “on the record,” and “off the record” stuff. I was a journalist, covered the NBA for 15-20 years. Still go to games, still talk to many involved in the game. Text with basketball guys all the time: real NBA people, former NBA people, friends and colleagues I respect, friends from back home I respect

What you can write, what you can say on the radio, what you can tell someone else, what you can say you saw vs. what you heard or overheard.

Whole thing’s a nightmare if all you want to do is basketball.

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P.J. Carlesimo

Some of these might not be all good. P.J. Carlesimo became the Golden State Warriors coach in 1997, and he was a bad guy. But don’t take my word for it. That’s what he was billed as … literally. P.J. Carlesimo took over the coaching reins from a gentleman — and I say gentleman for a reason — named Rick Adelman.

Adelman coached the Warriors for two seasons before getting fired. All you need to know about Golden State at the time was that Adelman was successful before the Warriors, with the Portland Trail Blazers, and after the Warriors with the Kings and Rockets. But nobody succeeded in Golden State back then. Rick Adelman was fired after two years with the Warriors because he was too much of a “player’s coach.”

So they brought in Carlesimo, who was known as “Policimo” at the time. The Warriors’ marketing slogan to begin the 1997 season was “No More Mr. Nice Guys!” And it featured a billboard at the base of the Bay Bridge with Carlesimo and his assistant coaching staff wearing dark sunglasses, like they were bad-asses.

The reference was clear: There’s a new sheriff in town! The Warriors were going from a soft-spoken, knowledgeable coach in Rick Adelman to a ball-buster and a yeller and a screamer in P.J. Carlesimo. The whole thing became a pretext for what would occur later: Latrell Sprewell choking Carlesimo out. That would come about six months after Carlesimo’s hiring.

There’s an old saying that if you can’t say anything good about someone don’t say anything at all. So, here are two positive qualities of Carlesimo: He remembered names like nobody I’ve ever known. I mean everybody. He learned my name from Day 1, and he knew it when I’d bump into him 20 years later. The guy was just unreal with names.

He also could be generous. Before my first daughter was born, I received a box in the mail. It was a Warriors’ onesie for her. Nice gesture, no doubt. But as I would come to know Carlesimo he always reminded me of that one Bob Dylan line: “They smile to your face but behind your back they hiss.”

And that’s what P.J. Carlesimo did. I remember one time talking to Duane Ferrell, one of the classiest players and executives I’ve met in this business. Duane was a grown-up, and that’s the way he talked to you. I was young in my career, just learning the ropes of beat-writing and reporting in the NBA.

One time I’m talking to Duane in the locker room, and Carlesimo walks by. “Don’t tell him anything, Duane,” Carlesimo butted in. Carlesimo smiled, but that was the problem. He was dead serious. How do I know? Because Duane told me.

“He calls you the ‘dumb fucks,’ ” Ferrell said. “What are you talking about,” I replied. “P.J.” … Ferrell said … “He calls you guys the ‘dumb fucks,’ you guys in the media. Like after he talks to us after the game but before you guys (the media) come in … He always says: Now don’t say anything stupid to the ‘dumb fucks.’ “

I can’t tell you how much that bothered me. Not that he referred to me like that, but because he smiled to my face 99 percent of the time. I’m not hear to brag about my basketball pedigree. I have little … a dad who played at Kutztown, coached at Muhlenberg and then officiated. I played high school, then Division III. I was never going to be a pro and was never going to be a pro coach, but I didn’t love the game any less than Carlesimo. I didn’t have any less of a thirst for understanding the game than Carlesimo.

Carlesimo certainly wasn’t the first coach with disdain for the media. But he was the first coach I came across that was so dishonest about it.

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Rick Binder

Rick Binder wrote me a letter that changed my life.

It was on yellow legal paper, and what he wrote only took up about a third of the page. His penmanship wasn’t great, his grammar OK, but what he said I’ll never forget as long as I live.

“When I saw you leave Southwest with a basketball, and walk down to 3rd & Spruce to play, and then come back with your ball, I knew you were going to be pretty good.” I got this letter shortly after my senior season in high school. Rick was coaching at Reading High; I was playing at Holy Name.

He was referring to a time when I was 10-12 years old and Pops was officiating Rec League games at Southwest junior high. I’d go to my dad’s games — usually a double-header — but as soon as we got there, I’d walk a couple blocks to a playground to play.

I guess I’ll say the quiet part out loud. That was a black neighborhood, and everyone at the park was black. I was a kid, and, of course I noticed, but I swear to god I didn’t care. I just wanted to see if I could get into a game and play. Thank God I made that walk! I wouldn’t be the person I am today nor the player I ever was if I hadn’t walked those couple blocks every time my dad reffed at Southwest.

We beat Reading High at Geigle my senior year, and I guess in our small world it was a big deal. But my teams went 1-6 against Reading High, so in the grand scheme of things it always comes back to Reading High: The gold standard of basketball for me. The heart and soul of my basketball foundation.

I’ve immortalized anything and everything Reading High basketball. I just have. Saw Cliff Durham hit the buzzer-beater at Martz Hall, watched Stu Jackson score 38 on TV, in the state championship game, was at the triple-overtime game when Pete Mullenberg hit game-winner at Hershey. And I’m pretty sure I remember Pete Pasko hitting a buzzer-beater against Ephrata — a team that shouldn’t have even been in the same class as RHS but for a damn good guard named Mike Matta. Who would later assist a little bit at Franklin & Marshall. All that may need to be fact-checked, but I’m pretty sure I’m on money.

Anyway, so when I got this letter from Rick Binder, who already had established himself as a great player and coach in Reading, I was floored. See, this is what I’m not sure I can nail down, and it’s just so hard to explain: Reading High was our pro team. It just was. It was that good.

They used to sell T-shirts at Reading High School games. They read: “Reading High: Where basketball is beautiful.” And never truer words were spoken. “Don’t you get it,!” I tell everyone out here on the West Coast … “Pete Carril coached at Reading High!”

Maybe if I keep this thing going I’ll write more about Reading High basketball, and its indelible impact on my life. Maybe I’m going to have to.

But for now, it’s just about this letter, a letter that still can reinforce me 40 years later — and not just about hoop. A dude from Reading High said I, a SUBURBAN player, was good. All things were now possible at that point! Thank you, Rick!

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